The bassoon is a key member of the woodwind family and can often be found within woodwind ensembles and large orchestras. To the unfamiliar, it may look like a large saxophone but don’t be fooled, this instrument is completely different in its key range and sound.
With a large and varied range, the bassoon is viewed as a crucial part of any major piece with its beautiful and distinct sound. Often viewed as the hardest woodwind instrument to play, the bassoon is an intricately designed and manufactured instrument that can take years to master.
Therefore, the bassoon is an instrument that will require many hours of practice to ensure you get the most out of it.
Whereas many other woodwind instruments such as the clarinet or flute are often a top pick for first-time players, it would be advisable that those who attempt to play the bassoon are familiar with another instrument beforehand because of the amount of work that goes into perfecting those techniques.
Commonly made from maple wood, the bassoon is a hard wood instrument. However, it is softer than the wood used for making clarinet. On average they weigh around 7 and a half pounds making it one of the heaviest instruments in the orchestral family.
Despite its odd-looking structure, it is an instrument that should be taken seriously when learning as the techniques needed are among the most complex from any instruments, especially the double reed that is used for blowing which we will discuss.
It is not a cheap instrument to purchase or maintain but if you are looking for an exciting instrument to learn to become a professional musician, it is a fantastic choice as there is a shortage of bassoonists in orchestras at the moment.
In this mini guide, we’ll be talking you through how bassoons are played, what the musical playing range is and what key the bassoon is in. By the end of this article, you’ll have a better understanding of how the bassoon works and its various aspects.
How is the bassoon played?
As mentioned before, the bassoon is a member of the woodwind family and is played by blowing through a double reed. Sharing more similarities with the oboe rather than the clarinet, it can be a complicated instrument to get to grips with as the double reed can be tricky to master.
However, once you have the basics perfected, you’ll be opened to a world of beautiful music. Double reeds are reeds that are slightly separated near the end to create extra vibrations for a richer and distinct sound.
When playing an instrument that has double reeds, you have to make sure that you are blowing heavily into the instrument as it won’t generate any sound or will squeak if blown too softly. In terms of longevity, your bassoon will easily last years during your music career.
Your reeds will probably need replacing every 2 to 3 months. Once you are used to playing, you’ll have an idea of when your reed needs replacing.
Another aspect that intimidates players is the structure of the bassoon that requires players to use all ten fingers. This can take a lot of coordination which isn’t suited for those who don’t have the best coordination, however, it is something that you will become adjusted to over time.
What is the musical range of the bassoon?
Despite often providing the bass notes for the woodwind family, the bassoon actually has a wide playing range. The bassoon’s playing range goes from B-flat1 to F5 meaning like the other members of the woodwind family, it is a hugely versatile instrument.
As mentioned before, it is regarded as one of the most difficult instruments to play overall and definitely the hardest woodwind instrument and there is a lot of leg work required to get the basic techniques down but once this is done, you’ll know how the bassoon works and be able to play the full range of the instrument in no time.
What key is the bassoon in?
The bassoon is in a C key which is notated in the bass clef. Bear in mind that to reach the higher notes, you will be using the tenor clef but this will be unaffected by the key.
The key it is tuned to is often referred to as the “Resonance Key” which is pressed by the little finger on the left hand.
Often forgotten by players as it is rarely used, making sure that the bassoon is perfectly tuned means that it is the most important key on the instrument. If it is not tuned to the Resonance Key, the sound produced will be out of tune and poor.
In conclusion, although the bassoon’s four foot long structure and double reed may intimidate some, particularly those unfamiliar with woodwind instruments, it is a hugely rewarding instrument to master.
Its current design has been commonly used since the 19th century, proving that it is an instrument that does not need many improvements in its design. As stated, make sure that you make use of the resonance key and always ensure that your instrument is tuned to that key.
By doing so, you have the knowledge that you are performing to the best of your ability.
The bassoon is a more modern instrument when compared to others but it has quickly become an integral part of any band. With only two to four players needed for a large performance, the bassoon is a strong and powerful instrument.
Overlooked by audiences, the bassoon may not be as popular as the clarinet or oboe but it still creates an impact.
Often costing between $5,000 and $20,000, it is an instrument that is well worth investing in if you are considering embarking on a music career or playing for years to come.